It’s hard not to feel at least a bit excited about Google+ right now. Most of us have complained at least once, at times strenuously, about the foibles and failings of Facebook. And as has been observed far and wide already, if anyone is going to build a better social networking mousetrap, it is going to be the future overlords of all the Earth, Google.
I did not have my ear to the ground on this one, so if there was advance buzz about the imminent release of Google+ before it burst into everyone’s news feeds and Twitter timelines late last month, I clearly missed it. But it didn’t take me long to catch on and catch up, and the early reviews were glowing, sometimes even raving. This was without a doubt going to be so much more awesome than anything Facebook had to offer, or at least that seemed to be the consensus of the eight people or so who had actually managed to get signed in and look around.
But then, what was really at stake here? The inimitable Merlin Mann put his finger on it quite nicely in one of his trademark toots:
Yes, Facebook has been frustrating, annoying, infuriating with their constant tweaking and fiddling with every detail of the user experience. Theirs is an excessively busy interface, with an infinity of distracting bells and whistles. Spam and hacking is rampant, and chat never really works. And of course it is debilitatingly addictive to many, myself included, although that is partly (read: largely) just the nature of the game.
But it still seems a bit daft to ditch out of a party where all your friends are, and where you have generally been having a good time, just to move to a party up the block where scarcely anyone else you know has been invited yet. I don’t care what brand of gin they’re serving at the new party: if there is no one there to talk to, I might as well be drinking alone.
Since I started drafting this post, I have been able to get in the Google+ door myself, and more of my peeps are arriving daily. It is a clean, well-tought-out interface that Google has put together. No real surprise: that is what they do. I really like the Circles concept and its functionality. I think this is a network model with potential. But it has a lot of growing up to do yet before it can try to rule the social networking world.
For me, at least, the failings of Google+ come down to one line of your article: ‘But it still seems a bit daft to ditch out of a party where all your friends are.’ Google+ has every bit of functionality that I care about in Facebook — basically, pictures and status updates — plus, it has a simple mechanism for serving content to one group and not another, while allowing for crossover between groups, something Facebook has never been able to pull off well — and certainly never as transparently as Google+. What it doesn’t have is adoption — my mother, my aunts and uncles, etc — they are already on Facebook, and for some of them it was a struggle even to get there. For those that don’t even have gmail accounts yet, it will be hard to get to Google+, and I think, for that reason alone, Facebook will have a momentum that is hard to beat.